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Rick Santorum falling behind in Pennsylvania

April 06, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Republican presidential candidate, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum bowls in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Republican presidential candidate, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick… (Jae C. Hong / AP Photo )

Reporting from Washington — As far as last stands go, Rick Santorum’s campaign to rejuvenate his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by winning his home state of Pennsylvania is looking increasingly bleak. A new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP), released late Wednesday, has GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney ahead of Santorum 42% to 37%.

The poll, conducted after Romney’s primary victories in Wisconsin, Maryland andWashington, D.C.indicates a rapid, drastic swing in the former Massachusetts governor’s favor. When PPP conducted a poll in the state just a month ago, Santorum led Romney by 18 points. But a 17% jump for Romney, and a 6% fall for Santorum, has reversed their fortunes prior to the April 24 primary.

Santorum, who has repeatedly said that the state is a "must win" for him, served as a congressman for Pennsylvania from 1991-1995 before serving as a senator from 1995-2007.

“The people in Pennsylvania know me. All of the negative attacks are, I think, going to fall on deaf ears here and we have a strong basis of support here and we’re going to work very, very hard,” Santorum said on the campaign trail Wednesday, a line of thought that may backfire given his loss at the polls in 2007 was by the largest margin for any incumbent senator since 1980.

Romney’s surge in popularity, with his net favorability jumping up 16 points to 57%, has cut directly into Santorum’s traditionally loyal supporters. A month ago, Santorum held a dominating 37 point lead among evangelical voters over Romney, but now, the margin is only 10 points. A 32 point lead within the Tea Party for Santorum is now just 6 points. And for voters who consider themselves to be “very conservative,” Santorum’s former lead of 51 points is down to just 11.

Perhaps most fatal for Santorum is the sheer lack of voters who believe he can beat President Obama in the general election. Just 24% think Santorum gives the GOP its best shot at beating the president, with 49% thinking the same for Romney.

With numbers like that, it comes as no surprise that, as originally reported by Politico, Santorum spent a great deal of time Thursday meeting with Republican leaders to try and take regain momentum in the wake of Romney's increasing inevitability.

At the tail end of the polling in are Rep. Ron Paul(R-TX) and Newt Gingrich, who sit at 9% and 6% respectively.

The poll was conducted by telephone on April 4 among 403 likely Republican primary voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.

morgan.little@latimes.com

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